City-county alliance offers promise of jobs and growth...

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

February 29, 2000

City-county alliance offers promise of jobs and growth

As an employee in Baltimore City, a resident of Baltimore County and a volunteer in both jurisdictions, I was delighted to read The Sun's recent article describing Mayor Martin O'Malley and Baltimore County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger's teamwork to advance the city, county and region ("City-county alliance blooms," Feb. 16).

This new day brings opportunities for real progress in jobs and the economy. Jobs prevent crime and allow people to invest in their families and neighborhoods.

Statistics from the Job Opportunities Task Force "job gap" study show jobs in the counties surrounding the city are projected to grow by double digits between 1995-2005.

The workforce is growing at a slower rate. As a result, many employers are struggling to find workers.

Yet, many Baltimore City residents are seeking work. Baltimore's official unemployment rate is 5.6 percent, but this number is conservative because it does not fully count welfare recipients, individuals leaving the corrections system or high school drop-outs.

In some neighborhoods, the actual unemployment rate is more than 30 percent.

With collective action, and state and federal funding support, the mayor and county executive could strengthen workforce development systems and public transportation to meet the region's growing demand for skilled workers and pressing need for jobs.

Baltimore County provides some good examples.

The industry-oriented Maryland Center for Arts & Technology and the Living Classrooms-United Parcel Service partnership are examples of nonprofit programs whose customized training and transportation enable city residents to compete successfully for regional jobs.

Patrice McConnell, Cromwell

Baltimore

The writer is a program development fellow at the Open Society Institute.

The state is investing in area mass transit projects

The Sun's recent editorial on Gov. Parris N. Glendening's commitment to mass transit was correct that his six-year transportation capital budget shows he's serious about transit ("Baltimore region trails in state transit funding," Jan. 23).

Our six-year investment in transit is now $2.5 billion, the largest statewide transit capital program in the history of Maryland. Mr. Glendening's commitment to transit will allow us to meet his goal of doubling transit ridership by 2020.

However, with the exception of the $154 million light rail double-track project, the editorial failed to mention numerous projects and initiatives to improve transit service in the Baltimore area.

These investments include:

$53 million to upgrade MARC commuter equipment, including purchasing 50 new bi-level passenger coaches.

$96 million to upgrade our Metro subway system.

$160 million to purchase new buses;

$14 million to design and purchase "Smart Card" fareboxes that will replace cashboxes and read new transit passes that function like debit cards.

$6 million to construct a bus terminal at Penn Station.

These are just a few of the transit-related investments we are making .

Can we do more? Absolutely, and we will continue to look for opportunities to expand transit services to help reduce traffic congestion and meet the needs of Baltimore area residents.

John D. Porcari

Annapolis

The writer is secretary of the Maryland Department of Transportation.

Optometrists want to do what they do in other states

I find it interesting that the "eye-drop" bill deserved front-page space, but please allow me to clarify some statements in the article "All eyes on lobbyists in a rematch over drops" (Feb. 22).

In general, optometry and ophthalmology are not sworn enemies -- perhaps 90 percent of those in each profession have great working relationships with each other. This bill will not change that.

We optometrists are not trying to elbow ophthalmology out of anything. What we are requesting is within our scope of practice and training. The bill gives us privileges that optometrists in 49 other states already have in some way.

We feel Marylanders deserve eye care that is similar to the care citizens of other states receive. We have also been willing to sit down and discuss these issues with ophthalmologists since last July and we highly respect the role Dr. Georges Benjamin, the state health secretary, has taken in trying to solve this impasse.

The opthamologists have been less willing to approach the matter this way.

Timothy F. Madgar

Parkville

The writer is president of the Maryland Optometric Association.

Improvement commission works to protect consumers

The Sun's article "Fund is no guarantee against faulty work" (Feb. 6) did not portray an accurate picture of the Maryland Home Improvement Commission and the guaranty gund.

The guaranty fund is only one procedure available to the commission to assist consumers. Through settlements, mediation and the fund, the commission recovers more than $1.5 million dollars yearly for homeowners.

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